Joshua B. Spero:
The European Union (EU) confronts the institutional challenges for whether its Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP) can effectively continue to have influence abroad, while significant economic burdens and dependencies dissipate the EU politically. If the CSDP fails to affect the changes diplomatically, strategically, and operationally it wants to project, then the EU risks delegitimizing its collective crisis management global vision. Going into its second decade with the large majority of its members integrated into an Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), the EU’s strengths exemplify models for democratized integration and cooperative security. The challenges for the CSDP, however, as part of the larger Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) framework, concern its military force projection internationally and economic dependency on Russia. Both geopolitical areas portend a weakening of the EU’s institutionalization with grave potential for re-nationalization and possible debilitation of required CSDP and CFSP burden sharing.
A critical juncture for such institutional challenges occurred when key EU members, Great Britain and France, acted with the United States (the latter reluctant to participate outside of NATO) to forge an initial multi-state coalition. This coalition went beyond CSDP and outside of CFSP frameworks. Emerging rapidly to implement the UN- mandated military intervention in Libya, the NATO-led Operation, Unified Protector, quickly overrode EU deliberations. What appeared as an envisioned EU-led mission, Unified Protector fast became the international operation to try to stop the humanitarian disaster arising from Libya’s escalating civil war. As a result, NATO diplomatically and operationally superseded the EU’s strategic area of interest – and region of crucial importance – North Africa. Many EU members deliberated and determined within NATO’s North Atlantic Council, not within the EU’s CSDP and CFSP processes, to provide the command and control, assets and manpower, political legitimacy and military strategy for this major out-of-area responsibility. Whether NATO’s consensus decision-making and institutional impact last effectively beyond Operation Unified Protector remains a question beyond this analysis. Clearly, the EU’s consensus failure and reputation remain at stake and its institutional legitimacy, so long viewed economically as integral to the peaceful coexistence among members, stands at a crossroads.
If the EU fails to confront the institutional challenges for whether its CSDP and CFSP processes can effectively have influence abroad, then history may reveal that Operation Unified Protector signified a serious rejection of such processes. This possible rejection of the EU’s CSDP and larger CFSP frameworks might witness a major turning point since the EU’s 2009 Lisbon Treaty sought to solidify and extend the EU’s strategic capabilities, building on the decade-long European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP). The Lisbon Treaty generated a conjunction of common EU political, bureaucratic, and foreign policy objectives and restructuring, in the wake of some twenty small-scale overseas political, economic, and military missions from the past decade. Certainly, these missions across several continents, primarily civilian or military monitoring or peacekeeping missions, remain important for the countries where they’re deployed. The key objectives for such missions focused on transitioning from ESDP to CSDP, as the EMU evolved and the CFSP was extended internationally. Since none of these CSDP missions abroad today deploys more than several thousand European civilian personnel or military forces, their impact remains quite limited. The baseline of US and NATO military reinforcement as the only means to successfully counter the Balkan wars of the 1990s reveals how more globalized twenty-first century security dilemmas disrupt EU political consensus building. Moreover, key EU nation indebtedness exacerbates such political difficulties. Consequently, the EU grapples with realistically transforming its political commitments into impactful military operations. Such operations are jointly intended to reduce proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, prevent conflicts (abridged).